Solace: comfort or consolation at a time of distress or sadness.
During my over forty-six years of service with the Brewster Fire Department (BFD), I have encountered events which I can never forget. They include tragedies such as a mother and daughter killed by a drunk driver, a BFD Line of Duty death, a decapitated female motorcycle rider, two young teenagers who drowned, a suicide,vehicle accidents, other deaths, and injuries, as well as homes being lost to fire. I am sure if you ask other old timers in emergency services, they have similar traumatic memories they wish to forget.
When something occurs that jars my memory of these unfortunate events, I find solace in two much more pleasant and rewarding calls.
It was a cold December night in 1978 when the phone rang in the middle of the night. The Ambulance Captain, Dave Scuccimara was on the BFD party line (a local loop telephone circuit with four users). I was concerned because it was not Tuesday night. It was not my duty night. He explained that a woman was in labor at the New York State Troopers' barracks on Rt.22 in Brewster. The Troopers had called the Sheriff's office who then dispatched the call on the BFD Ambulance party line. Dave asked who should respond. I was a relatively new Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and said that I would respond as well as the regular crew. We agreed that the former Ambulance Captain (and future Chief) Ed Hojnacki should respond if he was available.
We responded quickly with the ambulance. Captain Dave Scuccimara was at the scene. I was relieved and much more confident when I noticed that Ed Hojnacki had responded as well. (Ed was well known as "Fireman Ed" during Fire Prevention presentations.) He was also a New York City Police Officer with a lot of valuable experience. The woman in labor was in the front passenger seat. She and her husband were coming down Route 22 from the direction of Pawling to the hospital. The woman came to the conclusion that she could not wait until the hospital and her husband had pulled into the Troopers' barracks.
Several problems needed to be resolved. First, it was snowing lightly. We had the Troopers' hold a sheet above the car on the passenger side to resolve that. Secondly, we needed more light in the relatively dark Trooper parking lot. The Troopers used their flashlights. Third, the woman in labor was in the front seat. She could neither get out of the car nor spread her legs for the delivery. We moved the front seat as far back as possible and that gave her a little more room. We were able to move her right leg towards the open passenger door. The baby started coming out but there was an additional complication! In that tight, confined passenger space, the baby had the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. Fortunately, Ed Hojnacki was able to remove the cord from the neck and the baby was delivered! The baby cried (one of the few times I like crybabies). The mother and baby girl were placed on the stretcher and transported to Putnam Hospital Center and did well. The next morning I turned on the local radio station, WPUT on Prospect Hill Road. I heard that the New York State Troopers had successfully delivered a baby girl and the BFD ambulance had transported the healthy mother and daughter to the hospital! I resolved that if it ever happened again, the BFD would get its proper credit!
In 1985, I was now the Ambulance Captain and had renewed my EMT certification a couple of times. I was dispatching the Ambulance that Tuesday night, my duty night. I received a call on the ambulance party line. A woman was in labor in the village. First I called my dependable attendant, Bruce Colombraro who had the greatest distance to travel to the firehouse. Lastly I called my driver Al Palancia (He always got there first!). We responded to the residence in the village but there was an unusual problem. The baby was already delivered, crying and seemed healthy. The mother was trailing what seemed like yards of umbilical cord. She absolutely refused to go to the hospital until she took a shower. I told her nobody cared on the ambulance or the hospital if she had not showered. I begged her to get on the stretcher with the baby. She was adamant about taking a shower. I realized we could not kidnap her (especially in front of the Sheriff Deputy who had shown up). I clamped the cord twice and then cut the cord and held the baby. I told her husband to go with his wife into the bathroom while she showered and make sure she did not faint (or him). I gave the baby to one of my crew and said: "Do NOT drop!" After she showered we took her, the baby, and the husband to Putnam hospital. Mother and baby girl were fine.
I decided to make sure the BFD got credit for the delivery (not the Sheriff). I called the local radio station WPUT. I said without identifying myself: "I heard that the Brewster Fire Department had just delivered a baby. Maybe you should call the Chief, Bill Rieg to corroborate." I then hung up. A little while later I received a phone call from the radio station. Chief Bill Rieg suggested that they speak to the Ambulance Captain to get the details. I gave them the details and confirmed what the anonymous caller had said. It was announced that day on WPUT, the radio station, that the BFD had delivered a baby girl.